What kind of company processes payroll and credit card and check payments, and offers banking services and account aggregation? Increasingly, the answer is an accounting software company. No financial software company offers all these services, but the players are increasingly dealing in money in order to make money, not just pushing business applications.Intuit has the most complete set of funds services with its recent acquisition of Digital Insight, which provides online banking services that banks offer their customers. It also has a fast-growing payroll and payment-processing segment.

Sage Software, however, is not far behind, having snagged an American merchant services company, Verus, and a British one, Protx, in 2006. It also has a growing payroll business, and when I suggested that Sage would probably buy a bank, a well-known consultant responded with "I think it's almost guaranteed." Microsoft isn't in this race -- continuing to sell its technology stack -- but if the new model proves viable, there is no shortage of cash to put the Redmond, Wash.-based giant into the thick of things.

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